A villain published by Marvel Comics. The Red Skull first appeared in Captain America #7.

Johann Schmidt was the only child of his German parents. His mother died during Johann's long and difficult birth. Johann's father, overcome with grief after losing his wife, attempted to kill Johann. He was stopped by the village doctor from drowning the boy and the next day, took his own life. Johann was given into the care of the local orphanage, where he grew up alone, abused, and unloved.

When Johann came of age, he left the orphanage and began taking a series of menial jobs. During this time, he traveled from village to village, finding work where he could. In one village, he met a young woman and the two became friends. Johann read more into the relationship than the woman felt and when he revealed his feelings for her, she spurned him. Enraged, Johann strangled the girl, venting years of pent-up agression and hate. Johann found joy in the act, but fled to protect himself.

His travels eventually found him as a bellboy in a hotel. One day, Adolf Hitler stayed in the hotel. Johann was delivering something to Hitler's roon one day, coming in while Hitler was yelling at one of his heads of the SS. Complaining of his spies' incompetence, Hitler declared he could make Johann, a mere bellboy, a better spy than any of the SS. Deciding to take the boy under his wing, Hitler found Schmidt to be a perfect follower for his ideas.

Hitler rejected making Schmidt undergo the usual SS training, instead taking him into his training. Giving Schmidt a red mask in the image of a skull, Hitler renamed the young man the Red Skull, making him answerable only to himself.

The Red Skull grew in power and evil over the next couple of years. His masked persona made him greatly feared. He clashed several times with the costumed champion of the United States, Captain America and the two became mortal enemies.

Soon after the disappearance of Captain America and Bucky during WWII, the Red Skull was trapped in a bunker by Allied shelling. The bunker contained an experimental gas that caused the Red Skull to go into suspended animation. He would stay in this state for some thirty years until he was freed by minions of Baron Von Strucker, leader of HYDRA.When the Red Skull awoke, he found that his old nemesis Captain America had reappeared as well. The two clashed again on multiple occassions with Red Skull tasting defeat each time.

In the 1980's, the Red Skull found himself beset by advanced aging due to the effects of the gas that put him in suspended animation. Realizing that he would die soon, Red Skull sought to defeat Captain America before his demise. Hypnotizing Captain America's sidekick, Nomad, the Red Skull had Nomad begin to poison Captain America with a chemical that beset him too with advance aging. The Red Skull captured Captain America and the two struggled. Red Skull died from a heart attack, scratching Captain America as he died in a last act of defiance.

Captain America returned to his youthful age and continued to adventure, thinking that his worst enemy was dead. In fact, the brain patterns of the Red Skull had been preserved by the master genetisist Armin Zola who cloned a body using cells from Captain America. The new body had all of the perfection of the hero's body, but now had the brain of his worst enemy.

During this time, Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, had stepped down from his costumed identity and it had been taken by John Walker, a hero fomerly known as Super-Patriot. The Red Skull gained position in many right-wing organizations and used his new power to begin to persecute Walker. When the Red Skull finally revealed himself to Walker, Walker believed him to be Rogers and went after Rogers. Rogers, who had taken the identity of the Captain, fought with Walker and defeated him. Steve Rogers then confronted Schmidt , who attempted to use a deadly powder which when inhaled caused the victim to die and transformed their face into a red skull on Rogers. Rogers saw through Schmidt's plan and caused Schmidt to inhale the substance. Though it did not kill Schmidt, it did cause his face to become an actual Red Skull. Schmidt escaped and continues to plague Captain America.

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